Ask Social Security Questions and Get Answers ASAP
Hi from Just Answer. I'm PDtax, and can assist.
First, they can do that. Second, you may not have to pay it back.
Start by filing form SSA-561 within 60 days of receipt of the notice. That starts the appeals process for the overpayment. You will have chances to make your arguments.
http://www.ssa.gov/ssi/text-appeals-ussi.htm is the web page you can check for additional information on this part of your defense.
If you lose at appeals, you can still request forgiveness of their claim. You can file SSA-632, Request for Waiver, and ask SSA to forgive the overpayment.
http://www.ssa.gov/ssi/text-overpay-ussi.htm is the link to that material.
Restating the problem: Yes, even though you took good faith steps to advise SSA of what you thought was an error, you were advised it was not. That does not prevent SSA from claiming the overpayment, but you certainly have grounds to appeal and/or request forgiveness of that amount.
Thanks for asking at Just Answer. Positive feedback is appreciated. I'm PDtax.